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Department of History

Portfolio Guidelines

What is the Portfolio? The Portfolio brings together all of your work over your graduate career at USC. You should begin thinking about the Portfolio during your first semester and systematically collect copies of everything you create: both public history products and seminar papers from traditional history courses. 

What should I include in the Portfolio? One way to decide what to include is to think about what you would want to bring to a job interview to demonstrate the breadth of your professional experience and the quality of your work. Remember, potential employers are interested in your writing, research, and communication skills, as well as your public history experience. 

All Public History students will include:

A current resume/curriculum vita (required).  Copies should be distributed to the Public History faculty prior to the presentation.  Look at the template resume on the Public History website.

A table of contents for the Portfolio (required).  Copies should be distributed to the Public History faculty prior to the presentation.

A short essay that offers reflections on the theoretical and methodological assumptions of the field (required).  Students in the museums concentration might use the museum philosophy statements they write in Professor Marsh’s courses as a starting point. Students in the historic preservation concentration might reflect on how we preserve – and why – as starting points. Do not simply recount the courses you have taken or what you have learned in graduate school.  Let the resume and the table of contents describe, organize, and categorize the public history products you have created in your time in the Public History Program. Use the essay to think about public history and your field of specialty as intellectual enterprises, as professional perspectives, as forms of civic engagement, as ways to find uses for the past in the present. Most students base the remarks for the oral presentation on this essay. Copies should be distributed to the Public History faculty prior to the presentation.

  • The internship report and any portable products of the internship (required)
  • Products from graduate assistantships, if appropriate
  • Grant applications to which you contributed
  • Seminar papers that exhibit superior research and writing skills
  • Articles submitted for publication
  • Products from Public History elective courses outside your track
  • Press releases/newspaper articles to which you've contributed
  • Color printouts of websites you've helped to develop

Students in the Historic Preservation track will include:

  • Nominations to the National Register of Historic Places
  • Charleston field school projects
  • Historic preservation practicum projects
  • Cultural resource surveys
  • Historic structure reports
  • GIS projects
  • Any other appropriate individual or team project in Preservation

Students in the Museums and Material Culture track will include:

  • Lesson plans/teacher packets
  • Exhibit scripts, including examples of artifacts and graphics
  • Examples of collection catalog sheets
  • Examples of condition reports
  • Reports on conservation treatments, with supporting images
  • Any other appropriate individual or team project in Museums/Material Culture


What is the Portfolio Presentation? The presentation is a formal public event that is scheduled for one day at the end of the Fall, Spring, and Summer semesters. It represents a comprehensive examination in the field of public history and your concentration (museums or historic preservation).  Don't waste time by telling us why you chose USC or how wonderful the faculty is.  Instead, focus on how your portfolio reflects the major theoretical and methodological principles of your field. Use of handouts and visual materials is encouraged. Following each presentation, supervising faculty will ask questions and comment in order to test your knowledge of the theory and method of the field, after which members of the audience may comment. The presentation is intended to give you experience in public speaking and describing your work in an interview situation, as well as in demonstrating knowledge of the field. 

When can I do my presentation? Only one Portfolio Presentation will be scheduled each semester. You must have completed all coursework, including the internship and the foreign language requirement (or its alternative), before making the Portfolio Presentation. You may make your presentation during the semester in which you are finishing the coursework. You may make your presentation before completing the thesis. 

How do I prepare for the presentation?
 Keep your Public History advisor informed of your plans. Let him/her know if you plan to do your Portfolio Presentation during the coming semester. At least one week prior to the presentation, give your advisor a complete copy of your Portfolio, as well as a separate copy of your resume, table of contents, and essay. Give the other supervising faculty copies of your resume, table of contents, and essay. Consider bringing handouts (of your resume and the table of contents and any other relevant material) for audience members.  Practice giving the presentation.  It should not exceed fifteen (15) minutes. 

How is it graded?
 The Portfolio Presentation is graded by your advisor in consultation with the other supervising Public History faculty. Grades are A, A-, B+, B, B-, and F.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.